University of South Australia Student Association (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 1686-1690
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.1379
Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain
USASA Advocates are responsible for providing confidential and independent academic policy advice to University of South Australia students. This service supports students in processes relating to their academic performance and progress.

Benefits of mentoring and internships for employability are well noted in research, with both industry and students recognising positive outcomes of the experience. Literature also suggests that there is a positive correlation between internships and academic achievement. In the higher education environment the need for student Advocacy assistance is increasing, resources are becoming more limited and work experience opportunities for students are highly competitive. The USASA advocacy internship program was proposed in 2016, after the advocacy service noted a significant increase in students needing advocacy support and students lack of opportunities for professional and personal skills development.

The internship training manual was developed and the first pilot group of interns commenced in mid-2017. The internship aims to provide experiences in dealing with clients, cases and policy application in addition to weekly professional and personal tasks. Some of the topics developed in the manual are: professional communication, body language, negotiation, mediation, mindfulness and preventing burn out, work life balance, goal setting and navigating workplace relationships. The student interns are engaged in actively supporting other students who are experiencing academic issues and helping them navigate University policies and processes. This is reflective of the broader USASA strategy to work with the University under a principal of partnership and to engage more students in University decision making procedures. Provided the interns satisfactorily complete the theoretical components and demonstrate capacity to work professionally with clients, the last four weeks of the internship are practical based.

The initial pilot of the internship utilised a grounded theory approach and was structured to include various methods of evaluation, these were qualitative in nature and gathered via observation and one on one feedback discussions with participants. Additionally, Likert scales were utilised to measure the student interns’ progression during the program on key outcome areas targeted by the internship.

The interns have demonstrated high levels of achievement on all Likert scales. This was also reflected in observational data collected by the USASA advocates during time supervising the interns. It is also notable that client feedback collected via survey indicated that the quality of service was maintained during the internship (2014-June 2017 surveys indicated 96% overall service was between very good and excellent, as did surveys between June 2017-June 2018). It can be surmised that this is in part due to the support the interns provide the service in managing increased demand.

Furthermore, it is important to highlight that the program not only benefited the students engaged in the internship. Throughout the internship the students actively advertised the service to other students (peer to peer support), and the supports available to them. The internship has increased the awareness of the advocacy service, improved employability for the participants and effectively contributed to student retention via allowing the service to support more students.
Student Advocacy, Student Retention, Peer to Peer Support, Student Employability, Student Partnership, Mentorship, Workplace Learning, Internship, Student Union.